Baroness Tonge has claimed that she was “interrogated”, after taking part in an interview where she found it difficult to name any books she had read on the Palestinian conflict and had trouble explaining why she feels it is the job of the pro-Israel “lobby” to disprove her allegations that it bribes UK politicians.
The peer, who was suspended and subsequently resigned from the Liberal Democrats in October 2016 after years of inflammatory statements on Israel, was interviewed for the J-TV YouTube channel.
When asked by the interviewer, Dr Alan Mendoza, what the “best book” was that she had read on the subject of the Balfour Declaration, or the events of 1948, she responded by saying “I haven’t read great tomes on it.”
When pressed for an answer, she said “I have read books by Ghada Karmi and Ilan Pappe.
“Now you’re going to tell me that I haven’t read books written by the right people" - both Karmi and Pappe are known for their anti-Zionist rhetoric.
“I’m not going to say that”, Dr Mendoza responded. “But do you not believe that someone who has been so involved in this [issue] during her political career ought to at least have taken a contrary view here and there and read something on it?”
Baroness Tonge responded only by claiming that she was “not involved in any political sense. I’ve never been spokesman for foreign affairs in my party.”
When asked whether she really thought that secret funds were funnelled by the pro-Israeli lobby to UK politicians, she said “there could be.
“I’m making the allegation and asking people to prove [to] me that I’m wrong.”
She went on to say “it is up to the lobby to clear their own name. It is not up to me to clear their name.”
Dr Mendoza responded: “but that’s not the way it works. If I said that Jenny Tonge was a murderer, that’s manifestly not true, but a number of people start saying it, that doesn’t make it true… it wouldn’t be for you to clear your name in that context, would it?”
“No, I think it would be up to me”, she replied.
“So you don’t believe in innocence until proven guilty, you believe in guilty until proven innocent, which is not the basis of our legal system in this country”, said Dr Mendoza.
Baroness Tonge responded by saying “that’s a good point.”
The member of the House of Lords claimed that she has “spoken out when asked” on the issue of Israel/Palestine, and has been “misquoted time and time again.”
Dr Mendoza then read one of her own quotes back to her: “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips.”
“Do you know,” she said, “of all the things I’ve said I will probably accept to you that that was a bit over the top.”
After being interviewed, Baroness Tonge posted on her Facebook page that she had been “caught in a trap” by doing the interview.
“I was seated under glaring lights in a huge loft studio, she said, “and interviewed – no, interrogated – by a very nasty character who was determined to blacken my name and stop me saying anything meaningful.
“I was accused of not knowing enough about ‘the history”. They casually wore this tough old lady down.
“At the end I felt I knew how people are interrogated until they break down and sign confessions! My own fault I guess for being decent and wanting to connect with Israel’s supporters.”
A spokesperson for J-TV responded, saying:
“We find it very disappointing that Jenny would suggest that J-TV somehow ‘trapped’ or ‘coerced’ her in any way during the interview.
"She was treated very cordially throughout the interview and had a very long chat with our presenter Dr Alan Mendoza, and was allowed to make all her points repeatedly.
“Viewers will be able to see this for themselves when we release the video.
"It is not our fault if Baroness Tonge was unable to answer simple questions posed to her. Our viewers will be the judge.”